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Gopsall

Gopsall

Gopsall (or Gopsall Park) is an area of Crown Estate land in North West Leicestershire, England. It is located between the villages of Shackerstone, Twycross and Snarestone.

Gopsall is the site of a former Georgian country house that was known as Gopsall Hall. The northern edge of the estate is dissected by the Ashby-de-la-Zouch Canal and a long distance trail known as the Ivanhoe Way.

The area is mostly agricultural and is dotted with privately rented farms. A permissive footpath allows limited access to the public between Little Twycross and Shackerstone. The A444 Ashby to Nuneaton road also leads to a canal wharf on the western edge of the estate.

According to the 2001 Census the area had 346 people and 148 dwellings

Handel’s Messiah

During the second half of the eighteenth century the estate was owned by Charles Jennens (a librettist and friend of George Frideric Handel). It is reputed that in 1741 Handel composed part of his famous oratorio (Messiah) inside a garden temple at Gopsall. The organ that Handel specified for Charles Jennens is now to be found in St James' Church, Great Packington.

Some texts however challenge this theory and posit there is no evidence to confirm Handel stayed on the estate in 1741, although he was a frequent visitor.

Gopsall Hall

Gopsall Hall was erected for Charles Jennens around 1750. It was designed by John Westley and built by the Hiorns of Warwick who later added service wings and Rococo interiors.

The Hall was set in several hundred acres of land and included two lakes, a walled garden, a Chinese boathouse, a Gothic seat and various garden buildings. In 1818 a grand entrance (modelled on the Arch of Constantine) was added.

In 1848 Gopsall Hall was described as follows:

"Gopsall Hall, an extra-parochial liberty, in the union of Market Bosworth, hundred of Sparkenhoe, S. division of the county of Leicester, 4 1/4 miles (N. W. by W.) from Market Bosworth. This place comprises , nearly all park; and is the property of Earl Howe, whose large and elegant mansion, on a gentle eminence nearly in the centre of the Park, was built by Charles Jennens, Esq., about the year 1750, at a cost of more than £100,000. The principal front looks towards the south, and on each side is a wing projecting 27 feet, the whole length being 180 feet; the grounds are adorned with temples, are finely wooded, and well stocked with deer. The Ashby-de-la-Zouch canal passes close to the north-east side of the Park, and on its western side is the Ashby and Atherstone road. Here was a cell to the abbey of Merevale, in the county of Warwick."

By 1952 most of the buildings were demolished. Gopsall Park Farm was built over most of the original site and is not accessible without invitation.

The present-day remains include parts of the walled garden, the electricity generating building, an underground reservoir, the tree-lined avenue, the gatehouse and the temple ruins associated with Handel.

Between 1873 and the mid-1960s Gopsall was served via the Ashby to Nuneaton railway line. The original station in Shackerstone is now part of a preserved railway and visitor attraction (Battlefield Line Railway). Notable guests who stayed at the estate included King Edward VII, Queen Alexandra, and Winston Churchill.

Gopsall Temple

In 2002 the temple was part of a restoration project and it is also a Grade II listed building.

It is possible to visit the monument via the public footpath near the old Gopsall Hall Gatehouse entrance in the village of Shackerstone. It is a good 15 minute walk to the site.

A statue of Religion by Louis Francois Roubiliac stood on the roof of the temple and was erected as a memorial to the classical scholar (and Jennen’s friend) Edward Holdsworth. The figure was donated by Lord Howe to the City of Leicester and is housed in the gardens of Belgrave Hall Museum.

Chronology of Owners

Trivia

  • Gopsall Park belongs to – but is not the private property of - Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.
  • During the 1920s and 1930s Gopsall hosted a motor racing circuit and part of the woodland is still named “The Race Course”.
  • Land around Gopsall was considered as a possible site for East Midlands Airport.
  • There was also a Great Western Railway steam locomotive by the name of "Gopsal Hall". Note the mis-spelling of the name.

Notes

  1. Census output area 31UEGL0005 covers most of the area around Gopsall Park. For further details visit Neighbourhood Statistics website
  2. Heritage leaflet researched and published by Hinckley and Bosworth Council available via
  3. The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular, Vol. 43, No. 717 (November 1, 1902), pp. 713-718 website link
  4. Heritage leaflet researched and published by Hinckley and Bosworth Council available via
  5. Heritage leaflet researched and published by Hinckley and Bosworth Council available via
  6. Lewis, Samuel (Eds), A Topographical Dictionary of England., (7th Edition, 1848). British History website
  7. Hinckley Times Newspaper, May 30, 1951, Hinckley Times website
  8. Details of Crown Estate ownership can be found on The Crown Estate website

Links

Further reading

Oakley, Glynis. A History of Gopsall. (Bancroft printing, 1997)

Smith, Ruth 'The Achievements of Charles Jennens (1700-1773)', Music & Letters, Vol. 70, No. 2 (May, 1989), pp. 161-190

Lewis, Samuel (Eds), A Topographical Dictionary of England, 1848 (7th Edition), 'Goodneston - Gosforth', pp. 315-19.

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